November 10, 2009

Apologies, Excuses, then Greene, Lin, Conrad, Bolaño, Vila-Matas, Marias & Barker (N)

I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Not only have I failed to stick to my seven-posts-a-week rule with my twitter story, Trundlespike, I haven't posted anything on here for ages either. I looked at Marginal Gloss last night and thought of ripping off some of his posts, but I tried to load some flash game called Small Worlds he had said was "one of the most unlikely, thought-provoking online experiences I’ve had in some time" and it crashed my browser, which can only be taken as A SIGN (and not even a very unlikely one).

This morning I rowed half-heartedly with my little-but-good-peoples publisher and then we all made up again and agreed to Battle Onward. I did an interview about the record label with the esteemed Stevie Chick for a book about Ninja Tune. I read some Graham Greene.

I haven't read Graham Greene for absolutely years - over 20 I would think. But I went to a gig a few weeks back (the most-excellent Juice Aleem, who reminded me why hip hop will never completely die) and on my way to the tube I walked past two dodgy geezers laying out secondhand books next to the Cafe Nero on Tottenham Court Road. In the dark... I bought "The Honorary Consul" for £2 because it looked at a distance like it might be a first edition (WRONG! It was a Book Club edition) and because I thought I'd read somewhere that it was his darkest and best work (WRONG! That one had something to do with World War II and this one is set in Argentina in the '70s). But mainly because you don't often come across mobile booksellers at 11.30 at night on Tottenham Court ROad so I felt I should. Anyway, I haven't got to the Catholic Bit yet, so I'm quite enjoying it.

Before that, I read "Shoplifting From American Apparel" by Tao Lin. Hmmm. Dunno what to say really. I really loved "Eeee Eeee Eeee" but in his attempt to stop himself inserting the stuff which he says he deliberately inserted to "ruin" that book (in particular, the animals) he's made something which is maybe more true to his aesthetic but less sympathetic with my head. It works. It does work. He's still a million times better than all the Tao Lin imitators (and he must be doing something right to have spawned these bastards, who remind me of the lesser lights on anticon). But it doesn't catch me in the same way as it did with the bears. I really liked the bears.

Before that I read "Lord Jim," by Joseph Conrad which was strange and marvellous, oscillating between the sheer magnificence of the first section, the slightly odd colonial fantasy of the second section and then the fiendish denouement of the third, which makes sense of the second and casts the first in a completely different light.

Further back before that I knocked off "Skating Rink," the latest Eng-lang mini-masterpiece from the Bolaño estate. Familiar characters (minor South American poets ending up as exiles/immigrants in Spain and, in particular, working on a campsite) but here roped into the clutches of a murder mystery of some sort, in which the murder is the least important aspect.

Now we're working back into the mists of time and "Montano" by Enrique Vila-Matas, his follow-up to "Bartleby & Co". While I loved that book, Vila-Matas got a little too European on my ass this time around. I still read it all and bits were really funny but I'm not sure I wanted a book on literature sickness and the death of literature etc etc. I haven't got a degree in English Lit so I don't see why I should be subjected to this stuff now. Nevertheless, it has something - just maybe something a little too intellectual for me. I could kind of see why it had never made it into paperback, though.

Ooh, it's getting dark, or grey, or just hazy. I read the first part of "Your Face Tomorrow" trilogy by Javier Marias (I believe the last part is about to come out). I quite liked it but the sentences were all too long, which made it far more exhausting than it needed to be. That and the fact it was about memory (whilst purporting to be about predicting people's future actions) account for the reference to Proust on the back. But blimey, how many sub-clauses can I hold in my head at once..? Less than Javier, obviously. I like a nice full stop, me.

And I reach full stop with "Darkmans" by Nicola Barker, read some time last century (or maybe at the end of the summer?) which I absolutely loved. A big book made to seem short. She's a very unassuming writer - full of ideas and theories but wearing them lightly, slightly in love with all of her characters, amiable but tough, too. Much darker and odder than the summaries of it suggest. It's a really good book and shows, for that year at least, that not all Booker shortlists are full of unadulterated bollocks. Huzzah!

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